In the end, it’s a combination of everything that puts you to bed.
For the mother, remembered by the unwilling but deep-memoried daughter in Loretta Collins Klobah‘s “Come, Shadow”, it’s the electroconvulsive therapy that surrenders her. To what? She isn’t succumbing to herself, this darkly and intricately scrutinized figure, remembered as both a mother rocking her baby to sleep, and a woman strapped down, juddering and rendered, eventually, inanimate. The poem is an execution of women’s desires, decided for them by medicine and men, then enacted upon them. After eighteen rounds of ECT, the poem warns us, you can expect there will be a nineteenth not recorded here. The poet leaves you to imagine it, in the sanitized hospital hallways of your worst envisioning.
“Come, Shadow” is a marrow-curdling reminder that simply because a past is hygienic doesn’t mean it’s clean. It is the thoughtful, orderly journey to the sanatorium that leaves us shaking, without even a volt rippling through us. I come to find this again, and again, in Klobah’s poems: an internal spillage, the reservoir inside me deftly unbricked with a touch here, a dislocation there, everything deliberate and steady-handed.
The poem begins with a summoning. Come, shadow, it asks. The poem ends by asking the shadow to go. “I’m not your horse”, the speaker declaims. The odyssey that we undertake, between the invocation and the refutation, is a hallway of pain and remembering. It’s a table with straps that dangle like inhuman, uncivil ribbons. It’s a waiting room of the damned, where a woman tells her physician “if she has another / shock treatment, she will die. / It will be months before she is home, though, / and she will be hospitalized uncountable times / after that.” Look around. What shadow taps you on the back?
This is the thirteenth installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.